Is it time to rebuild a wardrobe?
- Your child has outgrown their clothes. Again.
- You’re pregnant.
- You’ve gained or lost a lot of weight.
- You’ve moved to a new climate.
- You’ve changed responsibilities (work, caring, education).
- Nothing in your closet feels like “you” anymore.
I have been there many times over the last twenty years! And no doubt will be there many times again in the future. Over the years I’ve developed an approach to rebuilding a wardrobe that works well for me. I call it the Base-10 Wardrobe. Maybe it will work for you too.
Intro to Base-10 Wardrobe
A Base-10 Wardrobe assumes you do laundry weekly. Its purpose is to identify a sufficient seasonal wardrobe. This approach may also help you shop effectively with the time and money you have.
Your Base-10 Wardrobe is your core wardrobe. It consists of:
- 10 daily outfits per season;
- A “weekly plus one” quantity of functional outfits per season;
- A collection of “stepwise” outerwear for the year.
Let’s look at these three categories in more detail.
10 Daily Outfits per Season
First, how many seasons are there in your year? Your climate will dictate this, as will any seasonal responsibilities.
Next, for each season, think about a typical week. What kinds of daily outfits do you or your child need to make it through seven days? Identify the kinds of outfits worn for the most hours per day, and/or outside of the house. For example, a child might need 7 outfits for school or play. A recent graduate might need 5 for work and 2 for weekends. Most people will have 1 – 3 categories of daily outfits.
You have 10 daily outfits so that you can have an extra outfit or 2 in each category. This will give you flexibility in case laundry day is late or the coffee spills.
Weekly + 1 Functional Wear
What else do you do during the week? You may also need clothes for sleeping, lounging, exercising, celebrating, or hobbies.
Here again you’ll want to go season by season. For celebrations, think about the week with the most events. For example, maybe you always attend a formal Christmas Eve party and New Year’s party. You’ll want 2 – 3 winter party outfits in your core wardrobe.
Otherwise, think about a typical week for each category. If you work out 3 times a week, do you wear 3 different sets of clothes, or the same set all week? Feel free to give yourself an extra outfit in each functional category if you’d like. The “+1” is optional, but it might make your life a little less stressful.
For outerwear think about the weather you live through each year. From hottest to coldest, create a stepwise progression of the items you need. Think about the whole body from head to toe, and don’t forget about rainy or snowy days if those are a part of your climate.
Since outerwear is infrequently laundered, your Base-10 Wardrobe includes only one of each item. For example, here’s what I need for an annual outerwear wardrobe:
From hottest to coldest, I need this outerwear….
- Tops: nothing >> a light jacket >> a wool coat >> a down coat
- Hats: a straw hat >> a newsboy cap >> a wool beanie
- Hands: nothing>> leather gloves >> wool mittens
- Neck: nothing >> a crinkle scarf >> a wool scarf
- Eyes: sunglasses
- Precipitation: an umbrella >> rainboots >> snow boots
Base-10 Wardrobe Guidelines
As you plan your Base-10 Wardrobe, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Each outfit is comprehensive.
It includes not just tops and bottoms, but undergarments, accessories, shoes, etc.
- Each item fits your body and life now (unless you’re under the age of 12).
If it doesn’t fit you now, it’s not a candidate for your Base-10 Wardrobe. Shopping for a child? You can go one size up for tops, dresses, jackets/coats, pajamas, rainboots, snow bibs and snow boots if you prefer. Buy bottoms, underwear, swimwear and play shoes in their current size range.
- Items can appear in multiple outfits a week.
Re-wearing clothing before washing benefits your space, time, wallet, and the planet. If you or your kid will wear the same pajamas or jeans all week long, figure that into your Base-10 Wardrobe! Just be realistic.
- You will likely wear many items in multiple seasons.
You can wear fall colors in spring! Or choose not to. Again, just be honest about how you wear your clothes.
Concerns about the Base-10 Wardrobe
Wait, is this minimalism?
No, although it may lead you to own fewer clothes. The goal is clarity about what you need to realistically function in each season. Not minimalism. Not maximalism. Sufficiency. Plenty.
Under this approach, two neighbors with similar responsibilities could have wildly different quantities of clothing. One might wear the same two pairs of shoes with their daily outfits all season long. The other might have a different pair of shoes per outfit. One might sleep in a fresh set of jammies every night while the other sleeps in their birthday suit. The point is that both are using absolutely everything that they own.
Okay, but can I own more than my Base-10 Wardrobe?
Yes. It’s not at all verboten to have extra outfits or items beyond your Base-10 Wardrobe. But I exhort you to make sure you love your core Base-10 Wardrobe before extending it. Why?
Because owning 10 outfits you love is less stressful than owning 20 “so-so” outfits. You will find it less stressful to have 1 swimsuit you love instead of 3 swimsuits you hate. One fall coat you look forward to wearing instead of 4 that you don’t particularly care for.
Once you have the core wardrobe that you love, add to it if you want to! Just pay attention to how you feel. You want to stay in your “sweet spot” and not cross your “too much” line. Also pay attention to your space budget. How much of it do you want to spend on storing clothes?
Ugh, but I need new clothes now! I’m picky and hard to fit! I have a budget! I don’t have time to buy a perfect core wardrobe!
I hear you! First, be practical. Sometimes in the interest of time and money, you will need to make do with outfits you don’t love. This is true if it’s a temporary situation (like a pregnancy) or a new situation (like a new job or size). I hope you will score a few things you love, but don’t let perfect be the enemy of on-time-and-on-budget. You can also make a smaller wardrobe work by doing laundry more frequently.
Second, trade up. If you’ll be wearing items for more than year, then focus your next year’s budget on upgrading your core. Instead of buying more accessories or extras, spend your time and money on a couple of outfits you love. Then let go of the so-so items they replace. Do this until you have a Base-10 Wardrobe (daily, functional, and outerwear) that you enjoy wearing.
Finally, add extras if you want to. Once you love your Base-10 Wardrobe, feel free to add more outfits or pieces. Just make sure you love these extras as much as your core.
I’m reviewing my current closet. I have a lot of items in my current size, but I mostly hate them. What do I do?
Review the section above and realize that you got stuck in the first step – being practical. Instead of using your budget to trade up to a wardrobe you love, you’ve been expanding a “making do” wardrobe. You need to clarify your Essentials List and your Wish List. Let’s take stock:
- Pull out the daily, functional and outerwear items that you do love. How many complete outfits do you have? How many partial outfits? Any missing outerwear?
- Now shop your closet. Pull enough pieces from your practical collection to complete your core wardrobe. Anything still missing goes on your Essentials List. Note the practical items that you hope to replace on your Wish List.
- Donate or re-sell your remaining practical overstock.
- Work your Essentials List until it’s done. Then focus on your Wish List. Do not acquire anything that isn’t on your lists (No Thank You). As you acquire new pieces that you love, retire the corresponding practical pieces (Thank You).
- Once you have a core wardrobe you love, you may start buying extras – but only if you love them just as much as your core. Otherwise, say, “No thank you!”
I’m hoping to lose weight – can I hang onto clothes I already own that aren’t in my current size?
I have been there, friend! Ask yourself some gentle questions.
First, do you love this item? Or do you love the size of this item? Where it’s just the size, thank it and let it go.
Second, does holding this item make you feel happy, motivated, or hopeful? Or does it make you feel bad, sad, or worried about who you are today? Be a friend to yourself. If keeping these clothes feels good, okay! If not, choose kindness and acceptance. Let the item go.
That is the Base-10 Wardrobe! It has served me well and I hope it will do the same for you. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Kaloumi Small Home Organizing is based in Edgewater, Chicago. If you live on the northside of Chicago or in the near north suburbs and would like my help in person, please contact me today!